God Bless You Mr Rosewater Summary

Kurt Vonnegut

God Bless You Mr Rosewater

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

God Bless You Mr Rosewater Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of God Bless You Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, also known as Pearls Before Swine, is a 1965 novel by Kurt Vonnegut. The novel is ripe with intertextuality and thematic symbolism. The name Eliot Rosewater, for example, is a yoking together of several opposites. The name Eliot connects the altruistic protagonist to T.S. Eliot, a poet who often depicts modern life as a spiritual wasteland, in which there is no love, only lust. Rosewater is a combination in itself, of the liberal Franklin D. Roosevelt and the conservative Barry Goldwater. Vonnegut was very aware of the political events of the time, specifically the 1964 Presidential election, while writing this novel. Kilgore Trout, a character who quickly emerges as Vonnegut’s fictional alter-ego, appears in text for the first time in this novel. Money is a notable theme: it is the leading character in a story about people, and has a “sterilizing effect” on everything it touches. Vonnegut clearly views it as a dehumanizing force, along with social class—the Rosewaters are heavily compared to the Rockefellers. The novel was adapted into a stage musical in the year 1979, accompanied by a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. The musical opened at New York’s Entermedia Theatre on October 14, 1979 and ran for 49 performances.

The novel begins: “A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.” The main character, Mr. Eliot Rosewater, is a multimillionaire who has been traumatized by his wartime experiences. He tries to compensate by treating the underprivileged with kindness. Eliot Rosewater passionately tries to enact the slogan, “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind,” a quote which has become symbolic of Vonnegut himself. However, this is not an easy task in a society that tends to view the rich as inherently moral, just as they judgethe poor as undeserving and lazy. Eliot’s attempts to play the philanthropist cause a great number of problems. Everyone he knows begin to doubt his sanity. It drives his wife to a mental breakdown, makes his father furious to the point of obsession, and eventually, leads to Eliot’s own mental collapse.

This large sum of money is the base of a charitable foundation. It passes the presidency from generation to generation, and the only way to unseat the current president is if he is found to be insane. Currently, it is being controlled by the Indiana Rosewaters, as it always has been. The other branch of the Rosewater family in Rhode Island is led by the character of Fred Rosewater, who doesn’t know that he is a cousin of the Indiana branch. The attorney in charge of the money is Norman Mushari, who sneakily decides that if he can change the leadership of the Rosewater Foundation, he might be able to claim a chunk of the money for his work. Mushari learns everything he possibly can about the Rosewaters, and plans to represent Fred Rosewater against the Indiana branch. The problem is, he works for a law firm that represents the Indiana Rosewaters—including Eliot. He eventually decides that he has enough evidence to call a sanity hearing against Eliot Rosewater. He quits the law firm and contacts Fred Rosewater immediately after.

Eliot Rosewater has always been known for his erratic, strange behaviour. For example, he was noted as calling out to the actors performing an opera that they would waste far less oxygen if they stopped singing. Although he is the current president of the Rosewater Foundation, he never feels as though he has done enough for the good of the poverty-stricken. He is eventually confined to a mental hospital after his breakdown. He stays there for a year, not remembering anything that has happened. One plan involves him pretending his entire life in Rosewater County is a social experiment, in order to explain his strange behaviour. He then decides that the only way to win this sanity hearing is to find an heir. He tells his own attorney to name every child in Rosewater county whose mother claims Eliot as the father as his heirs. This amounts to 57 children, all of whom he asks to be fruitful and multiply. He believes this stop him from being removed as the president of the Foundation.